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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 10, 2002

Hawaiian, Aloha union deal sought

By Susan Hooper
Advertiser Staff Writer

More than 70 percent of union workers at Hawaiian and Aloha airlines are being offered a plan to avoid furloughs resulting from a merger of the two interisland carriers in exchange for quickly resolving seniority and contract issues.

The offer — to the Association of Flight Attendants and several work groups in the International Association of Machinists, representing a total of about 3,600 employees — says workers will receive furlough protection if, by the date the merger closes, they agree to new contract terms and merged seniority lists.

The merger is set to close by mid-year.

"We will make offers to limit the number of furloughs as quickly as we can to reduce the uncertainty for employees," Greg Brenneman, the TurnWorks executive who will lead the merged airline, said in a statement yesterday.

But Brenneman also said that "furloughs and layoffs cannot be avoided entirely."

The plan does not rule out the possibility of other furloughs, or of layoffs, voluntary leaves, job sharing or early retirement to reduce the company's workforce.

Brenneman said last month that fewer than 600 of the approximately 6,000 union and non-union employees of both airlines may lose work as a result of the merger.

The offer comes as Brenneman and other officials begin meeting with employees and state officials on details of merging the carriers. It was not clear yesterday what provisions might be offered to non-union workers.

Offers to pilots and mechanics are pending until TurnWorks officials decide on the type of aircraft in the new airline's fleet, a TurnWorks spokeswoman said.

Brenneman is scheduled to meet with Hawaiian and Aloha pilot groups today.

Under terms of the offer announced yesterday, flight attendants would receive furlough protection if, by the date the merger closes, they combine the Aloha and Hawaiian seniority lists and agree to accept, with what the company calls "minor modifications," the recently negotiated 42-month contract of members of the Hawaiian Airlines unit of the Association of Flight Attendants.

TurnWorks officials said in a statement that there are "many similarities" between the Hawaiian flight attendants' agreement and the Aloha flight attendants' contract, "including pay rates."

Exact differences in the contracts were unclear last night.

Hawaiian Airlines and its flight attendants last year reached a new contract that was to put Hawaiian flight attendants at the same hourly wage as their more highly paid peers at Aloha Airlines by May 2002, officials said at the time.

The machinists' union work groups that received the offer from TurnWorks yesterday are customer service agents, terminal and ramp agents, cargo handlers, reservations agents and those in contract services.

The machinists' work groups would be offered furlough protection if: By the date the merger closes, they combine the Aloha and Hawaiian seniority lists and accept, also with "minor modifications," the recently negotiated 42-month contract of the Hawaiian Airlines machinists.

"The pay rates and other terms in the new Hawaiian IAM agreement are very similar to the pay rates in the current Aloha IAM agreement," TurnWorks said in its statement.

Union leaders representing Aloha and Hawaiian flight attendants could not be reached for comment last night.

Randy Kauhane, assistant general chairman of District Lodge 141 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the chief spokesman for the machinists' union for both Aloha and Hawaiian airlines, could not be reached for comment last night.

In a TurnWorks statement on the offers, Kauhane said, "I truly believe the company is committed to minimizing furloughs."

The members of all the machinists' work groups account for between 3,400 and 4,000 workers in the airlines' combined work force of about 6,000, Kauhane has said.

It is in TurnWorks' best interest to bring all of the two airlines' employee groups together smoothly, analysts have said.

Past airline mergers have been held up by the rancor that developed as employees lost seniority and benefits when their separate union groups merged into one. And many Aloha and Hawaiian employees already have expressed apprehension about the merger and their job security with the new company.

Reach Susan Hooper at 525-8064 or shooper@honoluluadvertiser.com.